In the movie Field of Dreams, the classic line “If you build it he will come” is delivered from heaven above. But when it comes to social media marketing, communicators may want to try some reverse engineering. As PR executives and communicators play an increasingly important role in creating social media strategies, they need to be careful to first cultivate their audiences—and make sure they’re fully engaged and their interest isn’t half-baked—before they start to seriously ramp up social media spending. Otherwise, they may end up throwing good money after bad.
Wendi Leggitt, director of DKC Connect, the digital division of DKC, uses a chicken-egg analogy to describe how social media marketing is evolving.
“The egg comes first,” said Leggitt, who manages social media campaigns for consumer brands such as Bazooka Candy Brands and New York City’s South Street Seaport.
“You need to build community and engagement around the brand and then make long-term investments” into social platforms, Leggitt said. “This contradicts the strategies of entrepreneurs and new companies who need to demonstrate their value right away.”
But, in many respects, there isn’t a huge gap between startups and legacy companies when it comes to how to monetize social media and make it a profit center rather than a cost center. For most companies, the journey toward making social media a legitimate marketing tool will require a circuitous path.
To take better advantage of the opportunities afforded by social media, “you have to be open-minded,” Leggitt said. “You may start at Point A, but new tools and brand discoveries in social media can take you down more of an exploratory and alternative route before getting to Point B.”
She added that gauging behavioral changes is a critical and growing component of developing social media marketing programs.
Take Minibar, a new app that delivers wine and spirits door-to-door in less than 60 minutes. The company is catering to people residing in Manhattan and Brooklyn who don’t want to go to a bar or liquor store and prefer getting alcohol on-demand via a few taps on an iPhone.
Minibar will soon offer up exclusive happy hours for media companies, in which Minibar reps visit media outlets and treat workers to their favorite drinks.
Leggitt said the onus is on communicators to figure out what their fans and followers want (and don’t want) and let that knowledge inform the content developed for social media.
Call it the next frontier of psychographics, where PR folks need to figure what’s driving social media engagement from a psychological standpoint, rather than strictly relying on the creative.
Behavioral diagnostics aside, social media marketing is becoming more and more integrated with a brand’s overall communications, as the shelf life for standalone social media programs is fast expiring.
“Roles such as community management have to be handled by a team that really embodies the brand,” said Gemma Craven, executive director of social customer engagement at OgilvyOne.
Asked how PR pros integrate social media into the company’s overall marketing strategies, Craven stressed that PR execs need to work with key stakeholders and create a “Social Council” encompassing communications, legal, HR, recruitment and other disciplines.
This way, Craven said, “each department can understand what it is responsible for, and how the company can continue to grow using social technology to its benefit.” PRN
3 Ways to Disrupt Your Social Media Strategy
Some of the best ways to disrupt your social media strategy involve getting more disciplines involved in their creation and transformation. Here are three ways to disrupt your social media strategy:
1. Get everyone involved. Social isn’t just a function of marketing, communications or sales. It’s customer service. It’s employee engagement. It’s executive visibility. If you want to shake things up, start by involving everyone. Set up stakeholder interviews across the organization to audit how everyone uses social and discover where passion and competencies lie. The better your social strategy can serve your business as a whole, the healthier it will be (you’ll find the budget will be healthier, too).
2. Make your systems work together. After the initial frenzied Gold Rush that saw companies activating social media accounts before sorting out staffing or governance, there came the backlash that social wasn’t capable of producing a meaningful ROI. The problem, however, was the lack of energy given to establishing the necessary measurement foundation in order to properly measure social’s impact. Use the conversations from suggestion No. 1 as a way of getting your company’s systems to better work together—bring social, Web, customer data and other streams together to inform strategy and build the case for more budget and resources.
3. Embrace ambiguity. The accelerated pace of business ushered in by the adoption of the social Web demands a greater level of flexibility than ever before. The addition of a new social platform or a new platform feature can ruin your perfectly manicured plans overnight, so building in budget and resource flexibility is critical.
This article was written by Danny Olson, director of digital strategy at Weber Shandwick. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special shout-out to Amber Conger, doa lottery, for suggesting this article.
This article originally appeared in the March 24, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.